As is to be expected when two incumbents with more than 40 combined years in office face off against one another, a lot of the back and forth in the campaign between Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Howard Berman has focused what each has done in the past.
But what would each of these Democratic congressmen do if reelected to serve another two-year term?
The Journal asked the two campaigns for statements from the Congressmen about what their top three priorities would be for the coming Congress. The answers, while similar in some ways, are illustrative of the differences between these two relatively liberal Democratic Congressmen.
The full statements from each campaign appear below, but here’s a summary of the similarities and differences between them.
Berman and Sherman both offer up some of the same priorities – getting Americans back to work and keeping the U.S.-Israel relationship strong, particularly by instituting and enforcing sanctions against Iran intended to stop the regime from going nuclear.
But the way each Congressman talks about how he’d achieve these goals is indicative of some of the differences between Berman and Sherman that have emerged over the course of this campaign.
While Sherman’s methods for creating jobs in the Valley would be to reintroduce President Obama’s American Jobs Act (which was stopped by Republicans in Congress in 2011) and the Capital Access for Small Business and Jobs Act (which was introduced by Rep. Peter King [R – NY] with Sherman as an original co-sponsor, but which hasn’t made it out of committee), Berman’s statement points instead the importance of “making it easier for American companies to do business overseas” in order to grow jobs in the San Fernando Valley.
And if Berman talks about defending the U.S.-Israel relationship by increasing funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield program along with “a new tightening of Iran sanctions,” Sherman focuses solely on “ratcheting up the pressure on Iran.”
That difference has everything to do with President Obama (who at the end of last month signaled his support for Berman in the race). Berman was present when Obama signed the last round of Iron Dome funding earlier this year, which may help to explain why he has an affinity for the missile shield; Sherman, meanwhile, has hammered Berman repeatedly in the past few years over what he saw as the more senior congressman’s support for the Obama administration’s decision to delay the imposition of Iranian sanctions (in an effort, Obama and Berman have argued, to bring China and Russia on board with those measures).
Perhaps most interesting, however, are the subjects that each candidate mentions that the other one ignores. Third on Sherman’s list of priorities is an issue that is sure to hit close to home for voters in the new 30th Congressional district – improving the Valley economy by taking steps to “grow and protect home values for middle class families.” To achieve this goal, Sherman, a former CPA, will take steps to make it easier for homeowners in “high-cost areas” like the Valley to get a mortgage and will “continue to strongly support preserving the current tax deduction for mortgage interest.”
If Sherman focuses narrowly on the issues likely to matter most to his constituents in the Valley, though, Berman takes on a broader challenge. Topping his list is what many -- particularly those in Washington, D.C. -- call the biggest challenge facing this increasingly polarized country: finding a “grand bargain” between the President and Congress to allow the United States to address its growing debt while also preparing the country for another generation of innovation and growth without harming the lagging economic recovery or decimating the social safety net.
Both candidates’ statements appear in full below.
Sherman’s list of priorities:
1) Jobs: My top priority will continue to be working with the President and leaders in Congress to create jobs in the Valley. I look forward to helping reintroduce President Obama’s jobs plan, the American Jobs Act, in the 113th Congress, just as I helped introduce the American Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R. 12) in this Congress.
I’ll work to temporarily increase spending on programs to provide job training and placement services for the unemployed, as well as additional healthcare, unemployment insurance, and financial assistance for struggling families.
I also favor making changes in federal tax policy that will encourage job creation while ensuring fairness for all taxpayers and revenue adequate to meet our needs. That includes reducing the tax burden on working families while generating new revenues from high-income earners who have benefitted from a decade of favorable treatment and have the ability to do more today.
To further ensure that our local businesses have the resources they need to expand and hire new workers, I am looking forward to reintroducing my bill, the Capital Access for Small Business and Jobs Act, which I introduced with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) earlier this year. This bill would give credit unions the ability to access supplemental forms of capital, which would allow financially healthy credit unions to increase lending and make additional capital available to small businesses.
2) Ratcheting up the pressure on Iran: If reelected, one of my top legislative priorities in foreign policy would be to vastly tighten pressure on Iran’s regime and economy.
While the sanctions enacted to date have led to a plunge in the value of Iran’s currency and a significant decrease in oil production and exports by Tehran, we must do more immediately given the urgent threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
I look forward to working with the Administration and bipartisan leaders in Congress to pass tough new provisions to further tighten pressure on Tehran, including those in the Iran Financial Sanctions Improvement Act that I introduced with Mark Kirk earlier this year.
3) Improving the Valley economy: In addition to creating more jobs, the most important steps we can take to support our local economy is help Valley businesses grow and protect home values for middle class families. That is why I will continue to lead the fight to increase the “conforming loan limit” in the Valley and other high-cost areas, and work to pass bipartisan legislation to increase small business’ access to capital.
Before I successfully helped pass the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, the national single-family conforming loan limit – the maximum size of the mortgage loans that Fannie and Freddie could buy – was $417,000, even in high-cost areas such as the San Fernando Valley. Thanks to a provision in this bill that I first proposed in 2002, the single-family conforming loan limit and the FHA loan limit in high-cost areas was permanently increased to $625,500.
In addition, I helped pass the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which included a temporary increase to $729,750 for high-cost areas in 2008, which was subsequently continued for 2009, 2010 and most of 2011. I also helped pass legislation last year that extended the higher $729,750 FHA limit until December 31, 2013. I will continue the fight to preserve these provisions, which help create jobs and support the economy in the San Fernando Valley. Homeowners who save hundreds of dollars each month are good customers for local Valley businesses.
Finally, I will continue to strongly support preserving the current tax deduction for mortgage interest. Various tax proposals to eliminate this critical deduction would saddle middle-class Californians with a huge tax increase, and could cause home prices to fall even further -- a disaster for the Valley economy. This will remain a critical issue as Congress debates reforming our tax code over the next several years, and I will never stop fighting to maintain the tax deduction for mortgage interest.
Berman’s list of priorities:
1. The overriding challenge for the lame duck session, for the next Congress and the President is to summon up the wisdom, the courage, and flexibility to reach a grand bargain to confront the massive debt, the lagging economic recovery, the demographic challenges to our safety net and the investments needed to continue to lead the world in innovation and productivity. Neither party will be able to ram through its agenda and we must fashion a bipartisan compromise to ensure America's leadership in the world. This is my highest priority, and I have the commitment, the skill and the track record to help make that happen.
2. I have been widely recognized as one of Congress' most steadfast defenders of the U.S.-Israel Relationship. In the next Congress I aim to continue my work to ensure the Israel's security remains a paramount national security concern of the United States Government. This means more funding for Israel's “Iron Dome” to protect Israeli citizens and a new tightening of Iran sanctions. Our existing sanctions are working, but more needs to be done and we are already busy drafting new legislation.
3. Jobs. As the former Chairman and now top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, making it easier for American companies to do business overseas has been one of my top priorities. This is especially critical here in the Valley, where much of our nation's high-tech and defense industries are based. That's why I've already introduced and will pass, export promotion reform bills for green and dual-use technologies to help create jobs here in the San Fernando Valley.